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Needed: A life-saving leap to a sustainable future

Editor's note: The pot is boiling. Humanity must jump out before it’s too late

By Gavin Allen,Executive Editor-in-Chief

The problem is that, for many people, there isn't a problem.

Or at least not one that’s visible and immediate as they go about their lives.

“We are very comfortable, we have a lot of things,” the global biodiversity expert Ana Maria Hernandez Salgar told me. “We stare out of our window and see a lot of green out there. So why do we have to be concerned?”

Hernandez, former chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, sees such business-as-usual complacency as a bad sign.

“We are like the frog that goes into the pot of water, and the fire’s turned on and the water gradually gets hotter,” she says. “But the frog doesn't want to get out because it’s getting comfortable… so the frog dies. Humanity is just like that.”

The popular metaphor offers a stark warning about the underlying challenge of achieving sustainable transition — the theme that runs through this edition of Transform.

On a more hopeful note: digital technology is enabling some industries to get better at what they do – in a way that makes life on planet Earth more sustainable. Take Jehiel Oliver, an entrepreneur whose digital tractor business uses data and the Cloud to transform small farming businesses.

“Most people see Africa as a philanthropic story,” says Oliver. “We see it as a commercial opportunity.”

Also in this edition:

  • We hear from the vegan entrepreneur and World Economic Forum leader driving a new lab-grown meat industry: eating fish without killing fish.
  • A CEO tells us how she’s using “wearables for plants” to decode their secret signals in a way that makes them healthier and improves crop yields to better feed the planet.
  • The head of the Tech4Nature Mexico initiative explains why Artificial Intelligence and digital technologies are game-changing forces in nature conservation.
  • And we’ll see how Ireland is speeding up its transition to renewable energy, including putting solar panels in every school in the country.

You’ll also hear a radical take on sustainability from former banking executive Nicole Yuen, who says that, forced to choose between raising a family and having a career in a workplace that isn’t female-friendly, many women have launched a “baby-making strike” that threatens the survival of humanity.

“I'm sorry, you don't give it to us on the career and education side? No more babies, we don't give birth,” she warns. “If you don't change the system, the system will change the women.”

And while you’re contemplating that nuclear option, spare a final thought for Ana Maria Hernandez Salgar’s mythical frog.

As you reach the end of this piece, the “water in the pot” – the planet as a whole – got just that fraction hotter.

But good news: biologists have shown that in reality, a frog in a pot won’t wait to be boiled alive, but will instead jump out. So, there is still hope for humanity, as many of the encouraging polling statistics revealed in this edition of Transform seem to suggest.

Fingers crossed we now all wake up in time to make that life-saving leap to a truly sustainable future.

Meanwhile, anyone else think it’s getting hot in here…?

Contact us!